Infertility and reproductive health are being discussed more and more in mainstream media, and as someone who struggled for years to have a baby, I couldn’t be more grateful. We need to talk about our fertility. It's very comforting to know you’re not alone. We need to arm ourselves with as much knowledge about our bodies as possible since our reproductive systems are complex and subpar high school health class education isn’t doing us any favors. But why are all of these informative articles preceded by awkward stock photos? Why do these women look so put together? Why are they smiling so much?
If you’ve ever been frustrated with your fertility, you know these are definitely not accurate depictions of your behavior. More often than not, they're fake portrayals of the very real and raw experience that comes with trying to get pregnant.
We started noticing this pattern (honestly it’s hard to miss) so we picked out the best of the worst stock photos and we're breaking down what it can really be like when you're trying to conceive. We’ll also share some resources that are more helpful than a glossy photo.
The photo popped up from a search on “trying to conceive” and accompanied an article on boosting your fertility. While having intercourse every other day around the time of ovulation is beneficial, let’s face it: sex, when you’re under pressure to perform, isn’t always the most fun. In fact, it can be downright stressful. Luckily, there are some ways to deal with the stress of timed intercourse, like taking regular breaks from trying to conceive and just have sex for fun. A more realistic pic? A couple in sweatpants doing their best to get it done.
This was from another search on “trying to conceive” but for those who experience it, trying month after month to have a baby is stressful. According to a recent study, anxiety during fertility treatments is not associated with pregnancy outcomes, meaning that all the stress you may be under struggling to conceive won’t cause you to not become pregnant. That being said, according to Dr. Alice Domar, PhD of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF, a couple may not be successful in getting pregnant due to stress if they're not having intercourse often enough or if they're smoking or binge drinking, both of which can negatively impact fertility. Stress does suppress the female reproductive system, so don't discount its role. Being open and honest with your partner while you're trying to conceive is super important, and can definitely help de-escalate the stress that comes with negotiating fertility. Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.
In searching for “increase your fertility” we come across this article on eating well for fertility. So what do we know about diet and fertility? Being too over- or underweight can have a negative impact on fertility, but everyone knows someone who falls into these categories who had no trouble getting pregnant. Some women swear by the keto diet to improve their PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) symptoms, but according to registered dietician Melissa Groves, this may not be the best solution. If you have concerns with your weight from a fertility standpoint, it’s always best to work closely with a dietician to ensure you’re getting the necessary nutrients your body needs to support a pregnancy.
We searched for “fertility testing” and came across this article on using at-home fertility tests. But it’s not as easy as peeing on a stick, seeing a smiley face, and getting busy. Women who have PCOS, for example, can’t necessarily rely on these tests to know if they’re ovulating, since they can have false positives. If your cycle isn’t regular, you could miss the window of opportunity because it occurred earlier than you thought. We know is it's not always all smiles when you're trying to get pregnant, and surrounding yourself with a supportive community and health care professional can make a huge difference.
OK, so you’re pregnant and that’s awesome. But let’s not forget that pregnancy, no matter how long-awaited, can still be rough. It’s not the magical time that many pregnancy stock photos depict. Hurling into a toilet bowl? Looking in the mirror at yet another blemish that popped up on our face? Pregnancy is not enjoyable for everyone, so if that's the case for you, you're not alone. You might even experience feelings of guilt because growing another human just doesn't make you glowing and radiant. These feelings can even develop into depression which, when left untreated, can have devastating effects on the mother and put her at a higher chance of postpartum depression once she has her baby. With all of this, it would be great to get some stock photos that show an array of pregnancy experiences.
This image came up during a search for “trying to conceive” and the article discussed some of the myths and facts of fertility. When we’re trying to get pregnant, we search relentlessly on the internet for facts and ideas on how we can improve our fertility. Some information out there is reliable, and some not so much. We can become obsessed with our research and in the process pick up some advice that is probably not correct. You can absolutely empower yourself through education - consult your doctor, as well as researched-backed sites such as Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health, and of course, the Modern Fertility blog.
Hopefully, in the not so distant future, our fertility related search results will render images that far more authentic to the lives of actual humans trying to get pregnant (although we do love a good bathrobe, a shiny kitchen and lovely field of flowers). Remember - you are the expert on your own experience, so don't put any, um, stock, into these photos.